Being a peninsula, Korea has numerous islands, roughly over 3,000, most of them scattered in western and southern waters, particularly in the Jeolla-do region. The seas around Wando Island or the city of Yeosu in Jeolla-do Province are dotted with vast underwater farms growing sea laver or oysters in the clean water, resembling the fields and farms on land. The islands of various sizes poking out of the water amid the sea farms look like the mountains standing behind the rice patches. It wasn’t easy for island residents to travel to and from the mainland, allowing them to pass down their own unique traditions, one of which is called “sandai산다이.” This term refers to islanders’ singing party. The word’s precise origin is not known, but it is assumed to have come from “sandaenori산대놀이,” a sort of Korean mask dance. There was even a song named “Sandai” in the region around Gageodo가거도 Island. Here’s a rendition by master singer Jeong I-deuk정이득. Music 1: Gageodo Sandai/ Sung by Jeong I-deuk Music 2: Geomundo Boating Song / Sung by Jeong Gyeong-yong and others Music 3: Seowuje Sori/ Sung by Arisu
The sandai festival that took place on the islands off the southwestern coast was held largely on traditional holidays or when markets closed. It must have been a very entertaining occasion with people singing folk songs and dancing to the merry tunes. “Gageodo Sandai” which we heard just now is a unique one, for it had no chorus, instead allowing different singers to take turns throughout the song. The Korean people love singing so much that they have songs for just about every occasion, even for farming and fishing. Most of the work done on the seas are too laborious to be done by one person, thus requiring several men to work together in harmony. There is nothing better than cheerful, rhythmic songs to bring people together, make work bearable and make time go faster. Many songs have been passed down in Korea, from songs for rowing and pulling up nets to those for sorting the fish. The songs sung by fishermen while fighting the waves were typically rhythmic and energetic. In particular, the boatman’s song of the Geomundo거문도 Island region had all these characteristics plus a somewhat melancholy quality. It’s not surprising that the Geomundo boating song was designated an intangible cultural asset of the Jeollanam-do Province. Here’s “Geomundo Boating Song” performed by Jeong Gyeong-yong and several other singers.
Jejudo Island is known as the island that has three things in abundance – rocks, wind, and women. The island has a larger female population because many men have lost their lives at sea, leaving women to make a living for their families. It also means that women of Jejudo tend to be strong and very active in society, and have authority over their household finances. It’s been a time-honored tradition in Jeju for women to work out in the fields and dive into the sea to make ends meet for their families. Most of the work songs in Jeju were sung by women while they were tilling the land or by female divers out in the sea. The last song we’re going to hear today is titled “Seowuje서우제 Sori,” which was sung at the shamanistic ritual held to wish well-being and prosperity for women divers of Jeju. After many years, the shamanistic song turned into a recreational element included in parties and festivals. Let’s conclude this week’s Sounds of Korea with a folk song ensemble called Arisu singing “Seowuje Sori.”
Music 1: Gageodo Sandai/ Sung by Jeong I-deuk
Music 2: Geomundo Boating Song / Sung by Jeong Gyeong-yong and others
Music 3: Seowuje Sori/ Sung by Arisu